When wondering how the Orioles are winning games these days, one can't deny the impact of the second-best bullpen in the American League. All-Star closer Jim Johnson has deservedly soaked up most of the attention, followed by the emergence of Pedro Strop, and the resurgence of veterans Luis Ayala and Darren O'Day. With that many relievers having solid years, lefty Troy Patton, who has a 2.76 ERA in 47 appearances, has failed to get the attention he's earned.
"It's kind of nice to just fit in quietly to a very good bullpen, and it's nice I'm not getting the attention because of how well the other guys are doing too," Patton said. "Pedro and Jim are having amazing years and everyone else's ERA's are so low that mine doesn't really stand out."
What does stand out is Patton's current scoreless streak. Has anybody noticed the southpaw hasn't given up an earned run since July 2 when he was tagged for two home runs in 1 1/3 innings pitched against Seattle? That's a span of 15 appearances in which the 26-year-old has pitched 11 1/3 scoreless innings.
When I brought the streak to Patton's attention, he superstitiously knocked on his wood locker.
"I was unaware of that," Patton said. "Honestly, I've gotten lucky a couple of times. I got a really good save by Luis Ayala. The other day, I let a runner on base with no outs which is a tough situation, and he pitched out of it for me, and I think it's happened one other time where O'Day saved me. It's nice that I can put together some scoreless innings with the help of other guys."
A humble answer for a pitcher who early in his career was humbled by the bright lights of the big leagues. Patton came to Baltimore in December 2008 as one of five players involved in the Miguel Tejada trade. He'd played part of the 2007 season in the major leagues for the Houston Astros, but in 2008, after undergoing shoulder surgery, Patton missed the entire season. Both 2009 and 2010 were mostly spent in the minor leagues (only one big league appearance in 2010). Down on the farm, Patton's numbers weren't exactly eye catching.
Then, in the second half of 2011, Patton got his chance and posted a 3.00 ERA in 20 games with the Orioles. Those appearances were scattered as he shuttled back and forth between Triple-A Norfolk and Baltimore. A few times he got the call, but wasn't even activated. Patton sort of became an inside joke with reporters. The guy who stood by with his suitcase just to hear the O's were sending him back down.
This year Patton has stuck, spending his first full season (so far) in the big leagues. The consistency has allowed him to find a groove.
"It was pretty crazy the up and down last year, but a lot of it has to do with momentum and confidence. I'm a big pitcher as far as I build off of each outing and I've been able to do that recently," Patton said. "I've been keeping myself out of a lot of trouble, which by throwing strikes, I've been able to do and that just helps me build confidence and go after hitters, and good things happen."
Good things are happening for Patton thanks to perseverance. It wasn't an easy path, but the southpaw has finally found his way to becoming the Birds' quietest weapon in the bullpen. Exactly the way he prefers it.